The long overdue, around the world Clipper race finally came to an end at the weekend arriving in London’s Royal Docks.
Some of you may know that I’ve been hunting street art for many years. Mostly I find these various size works in and around the Shoreditch area in East London or The Leake Street Tunnel near Waterloo station. Whenever I travel abroad I always try and find the local street art district with some amazing and well known artists’ work being visible in more than one country it’s always a nice surprise to spot a tag or style from an artist you’ve seen before. My Instagram page has been running since May 2020 and has organically grown to just over 1000 followers. This is just the tip of the iceberg of course, with the fandom and movement having at least 100 times that in street art fans in the UK and with some Instagram followers having well over 15,000 followers. I’m not shallow enough to worry about the followers that I get that much but it’s nice that people want to see my photography and my street art hunting efforts. That for me is the real enjoyment of street art hunting, the not knowing what you’ll find next and with most pieces changing every week, it’s an exciting and constantly evolving outdoor gallery and I also often get a good 15k worth of steps out of each hunt whilst wandering around the streets of EC1, so it’s good for my health too.
A couple of days ago I was asked if I’d like to see some street art created by Sonia Boyce to cover the wall protecting the new Crossrail line that runs from Abbey Wood and though North Woolwich, Silvertown and Custom House. This would be the biggest mural in Europe covering an area over 2km long. This should be interesting to see but I would always be a bit hesitant however about a corporation getting involved in an artwork project as the amount of bureaucracy and committee meetings often results in something very bland and disappointing.
The Crossrail version of the Berlin wall certainly needs something to brighten up the area and I’m surprised that street artists or enthusiastic youths with spray cans and no idea haven’t already had a go at it with “Bozzo Woz Ere” but it seems mostly unmolested if just a dirty white wall. The pre-printed panels that are going up ready for the summer 2021 launch are pretty much as I would expect. Mostly a safe hospital style design of a black and white cityscape with flowers along the bottom. The panels are dotted with quotes from local residents and are mostly uninspiring. One quote did stand out though that I’m stunned actually went through the due diligence and creative process. The offending element was highlighting the crime and murders in the area. This will do wonders for the house prices I’m sure.
The quote read,
‘I love this area North Woolwich.
I’m glad I was brought up here, it’s like a village. It has a hairdresser, a corner shop, a post office, a library, three parks, a bakery and a pharmacy.
There’s the Police Station, there’s a Chinese takeaway.
It has everything all in one small area and everyone knows everyone.
The only negative thing is the crime and the murders, which has been increasing.
This is unfortunate, but other than that everything else is fine.
Also there’s a little beach and you can take a ferry ride.
It’s all so close.
Like a village.’
How on earth did that ever get approved? Having seen this I decided to Tweet about it on the @Moliblog Twitter page showing my shock and disappointment at the way Crossrail and the artist can think this a great way to promote the area?
Given the reputed £1m+ price tag, I can tell you that local community groups could really use that money post Covid more than hearing that they live in a crime and murder zone. It’s especially insensitive as less than 5 minutes walk away, a shrine is still in place to a young man that was the victim of knife crime. You could argue that the quote was honest and a temporary piece of commentary it would be challenging and inspire change, however as a permanent wall covering it falls short of any decency and consideration for local residents.
Crossrail didn’t reply to my tweet and why would they. However, after ITV news and The Evening Standard quoted my tweet on their websites, the story did get some momentum and I’m glad to say that Newham Council put out a press release asking for the offending panel to be covered up or removed. The Crossrail programme manager Jim Crawford appeared in ITV news that night and was frankly clueless about the whole project and claimed he would look into it.
I’m pleased to say that today the panel has been taken down and hopefully something more positive will replace it. A quote maybe about the power of street art that can bring people together despite a big dividing wall though the borough. At least they don’t have guard towers and searchlights. Yet.
This week I received a letter from the government and the amazing NHS telling me that I’m a high risk individual for complications from Covid-19, Coronavirus. I knew that having a chronic lung condition probably wasn’t going to be a good thing and I emailed my lung specialist to ask him that very question. The government letter arrived before I got a nice reply from the doctor and both said the same thing. I need to shield myself away from people and any physical contact with them to avoid getting the virus that wouldn’t end well. The vast majority of cases around the world that have died have had pre-existing medical conditions, so the threat to my life is a real one. This is clearly a scary time for everyone but no more than for the elderly and those that have medical conditions that put themselves at increased risk. Frankly I’m scared of my shadow right now and I’ve not been sleeping well. I love being at home and spending time watching TV or playing games to pass the time but the stress of isolation is a different beast. The realisation that I can’t just go out for a walk or wander around the shops or go for a spot of lunch is leaving me feeling trapped, like being locked in a box and now I’m starting to panic. I feel fairly ridiculous really. A grown man acting like a baby. The thing that might be playing more on my mind is the period of time it has taken for the anxiety to toll on my mental state and how quickly that’s happened. Just 4 bloody days!
During the first and second world wars, kids would lie about their age or health to volunteer and sign up to fight for their country and way of life. They would put their lives on the line and many died doing their bit to save their way of life and make a difference. In many ways, we can’t understand that nowadays and I can’t really see the majority of youth today doing the same. All any of us really now have to do, is sit on our soft sofas and watch Netflix. Easy right? With the national lock down in the UK being set for a period of 3 weeks most people, including myself could handle that, however for me the period of time that I face in isolation is the most difficult for me to reason in my head, 12 weeks. 12 weeks without going out, meeting people, going to get a haircut, getting food, opening my own post, the list goes on. How on earth will I cope with that and what state will I be in afterwards?
As I work in retail its fairly limited what I can do to work from home beyond people admin and the preparations before the lock down were nil to minimal, so I have limited resources. I’ve set up a small office in the kitchen and have kept myself busy with trying to put plans into place to look after the well being of my team while the country tries to stop this virus spreading around. In doing so, I realised that I’d rather be out there helping the fight than hiding away from it like some coward. Applauding the NHS as we did last night, I’m actually jealous of those people trying to make a difference and would have loved the chance to fight this war like our grandfathers did before us. The near 1 million volunteers are today’s hero soldiers alongside the nurses and doctors on the front line. This really has become World War 3. Not being fought with a flash and a bang from a foreign power or from some ideological mad men but from an enemy that we can’t see and we have no defense against. Like all wars, people will die or be left with permanent injuries and some dark days are coming. The government after all doesn’t create a 4000 bed hospital with 2 morgues at Excel, London without expecting a battle to be on the horizon. We will lose love ones to this Covid-19 and the suffering globally has already been immense and will only get worse in the coming weeks. The least we can all do is our bit. As home bound soldiers we all need to find the strength and character to fight this battle from our armchairs and stay at home. It might not feel very heroic but we are all heroes, because we all saving a life and I get to do it for 12 weeks.
As of today: 759 people have now died from Coronavirus in UK, 14,543 confirmed infected including the Prime Minister. 150 recovered.
Sorry Guys and Girls. I’ve not had time to write Moliblog for some time.
I’ll try harder this year to get back into it. I enjoy writing and I hope you enjoy reading the blog too? I’ve got lots happening this year and it would be good for me to get my thoughts down as the year progresses and maybe you can follow along.
Until then, best wishes for a great year.
Around a decade ago I took the long 23 + hour flight to Perth, Australia to catch up with my family that emigrated there back in the 1980’s. Having hired a convertible car that at the time was considered an unusual car to have due to the climate, I explored a relatively small amount of Western Australia. Perth itself is considered the most isolated city in the world and at the time I visited, it wasn’t heavily populated either. That’s not changed much now with less than 2 million people living there in 2018.
One of the places I visited was about an hours drive outside Perth to a very empty town called Fremantle, that at the time had less than 10,000 people living in it. Traveling with my cousin Nick on a hot day, we walked down a quiet side road looking for somewhere to get a drink. We stumbled across the ‘Little Creatures Brewery’ and that’s when I discovered my favorite Pale Ale. Despite my reputation for having a beer, I don’t really drink that much, more quality over quantity and this beer was most certainly a quality brew. Getting back to London I was clearly going to miss it and decided to find some way of getting it at home and remember having to pay through the nose to have a case of 24 bottles shipped over. In recent times supermarket chain Waitrose finally began selling the beer and for a reasonable price too.
Sometimes I was lucky to find a pub that sold it and would then feel obliged to share a fairly camp picture with Nick back in Australia.
Now things have reached a whole new level with Little Creatures opening a brewery in London’s Kings Cross area and naturally I had to pay them a visit.
It’s safe to say that lately we’ve had some Australian type weather, with a fairly intense heatwave. Along with visiting the brewery on a Friday night, it was always going to be busy experience. However, regardless of how busy it was, I was really impressed with the level customer engagement from the team of servers and the detailed knowledge they had of the brewing process and of course how each of the now local brews tasted. I was even offered a selection of tasters to explore my next choice.
The servers really knew their product and the history of the brand. I was particularly fascinated to learn that when the owner first moved from the UK to Australia he wanted to make his own cask Ale like he had been drinking back in the UK. However, warm beer in that climate was never going to work. So he created a beer using hops that were and still are imported from the UK. Doing this he created a beer that has a more intense and distinctive flavour.
I got chatting to a fantastic, customer focused manager called Madeleine whom I bored with the story above. She could tell I was a fan of the brand and she made my night by giving me a bag of goodies that included a Little Creatures Baseball cap, T-shirt, Serving tray and a collectable metal sign. I have to say, that was very unexpected and very welcome.
It’s rare to find great customer service, product knowledge and a great product all in one place. I’ve often found that that you either get one or two of the three. On those rare occasions when all the boxes are ticked, it’s worth writing about it and singing their praises as I have now. Hopefully you’ll get to pay them a visit some time soon and get the Little Creatures experience yourself.
I’ve been thinking about what to write this time. I really don’t think I’ve spent any amount of time looking at Brexit and that might have been a good idea actually. Politics is a fairly emotive subject to say the least. Some people say that in polite company you should never talk about religion and politics. I’m not about to offer an opinion about the result of the referendum or the subsequent negotiations that have taken us to the agreed leave date on the 29th March 2019.
Brexit has been a national focus for our politicians, the media and the vast majority of our population. It feels to me like a national obsession that regardless of which way you decided to vote, everyone, every day since has been reading and talking about Brexit. Frankly I’ve had enough of it myself now but like most people, I just wanted to see where we end up and maybe we can move on with other important national issues that have taken a back burner. On a side note, I’ve always thought that the name, Brexit was loaded in the subconscious of the electorate to enable the leave campaign to have an advantage. It wasn’t called, BRIT-IN after all. Anyway, yesterday was deadline day after 3 years of negotiations, planning, votes and political arguments and we didn’t leave the European Union. During the referendum campaign I thought I knew what Brexit meant, however now I’m not so sure that the information given to the electorate was true and accurate. The fallout from the result has now created many difficulties which appear beyond resolution and to the satisfaction of the majority of our MP’s.
Without supporting either campaign or side of the argument, I decided to see what the area around the Houses of Parliament would be like on the big day. I noticed a big crowd gathering on TV and wondered if I’d encounter a movie like environment akin to ‘V for Vendetta’ with an angry mob, hell bent on the over throw of the government or just a peaceful demonstration demanding the vote be honored as promised for so long. However, it was neither of these things and what I witnessed disturbed me.
A found myself walking out of Westminster station and into a mob of bald headed middle aged men drinking beer from the nearby pub and singing the short version of ‘God Save the Queen’ on repeat while in the distance a big screen shows guest speakers demanding our very own Independence day with the likes of Tommy Robinson telling the crowd what they wanted to hear while they applauded and lapped up every word in between glugs of beer.
Some of the crowd were holding placards demanding ‘Leave means Leave’ and ‘Brexit Betrayal’ with their anger and views being understandable given the current situation. They were exercising their democratic right to protest and we should expect nothing less. I was shocked however that among this gathering were groups of people that spent far too much time talking in terms that basically resembled, ‘England for the English’ and with all the sentiments of an English Defense League gathering. It was so uncomfortable to hear these people talking in such abhorrent terms that I had to move away from them and I wanted nothing to do with their views which should never be connected to subject of Brexit.
I walked along to Abingdon Street gardens where the media always set up for live broadcasts. The camera crews and lights had very little space between them with the worlds media finding the perfect spot for a Westminster background. I spoke briefly to broadcaster Jon Snow about the day which we both agreed was a very strange experience.
I will note, that not all of the people I came into contact with were racist thugs and some had a great understanding of the subject and could articulate themselves well and why they felt the need to voice their anger and concerns. It’s my hope that more people want to be associated with those people and not the latter. My final experience as I moved back towards the station was when I met another broadcast journalist and political editor for ITV News, Robert Peston.
As we started to speak, a group of angry men started calling him a BBC left wing cunt. They kept shouting at him and not giving him the chance to respond. Then came the spitting at him while the police did nothing. Shocking and disgusting. According to reports, only 5 people were arrested that day. I think the police took a very wide view on what constituted a crime that day and allowed such disgusting behavior to occur.
We are a nation that are very divided on so many levels and we have millions of individual views on what Brexit should look like. I can confirm that no longer know what Brexit means.
I’m not sure how many of you are left that used to read Moliblog. I’ve taken a long break from writing and posting my pictures and I sort of fell out of love with it all. It seems that every other blog has something to do with make-up tips and fashion or Youtube-ers that have become youth superstars with their pages earning millions and even more followers. Who really wants to read the ramblings of a white middle aged fat man? Having thought about this recently I decided that the blog was really for me to share my thoughts with myself and if others choose to read it then great but I really don’t want to get hung up on followers and stats. I’ll do my best to write on a more regular basis as I used to really enjoy it.
Here’s a catch up with me meeting the amazing Darcy Bussell at the Royal Opera house for a signing of her book Evolved,
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @moliblog